Rams’ receiving corps doesn’t worry about snap counts, only victories
It was another productive, if unusual, game for Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Kupp caught four passes, one for a touchdown, in Sunday night’s 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
That kind of performance has come to be expected from the Rams’ leader in targets and receptions.
But Kupp’s production was noteworthy: He did it while playing only 20 snaps, 37 fewer than he played in the previous week’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Kupp is not the only receiver to recently experience large fluctuations in his playing time.
The Rams’ disciplined pass rush combined with tight coverage kept the Seahawks offense out of the end zone for sixth time in Russell Wilson’s 125 career starts.
As the Rams prepare for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, coach Sean McVay is evolving an offense that has mostly displayed a productive rhythm the last two games.
A week after amassing a season-best 549 yards in a 34-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more against the Seahawks. The Rams have won two games in a row for the first time since October. At 8-5, and with games remaining against the Cowboys (6-7), San Francisco 49ers (11-2) and Cardinals (3-9-1), they remain in the hunt for an NFC wild-card spot.
McVay as of late has reintroduced star running back Todd Gurley as the focal point of the offense. With tight end Gerald Everett sidelined because of a knee injury, McVay also increased the role of tight end Tyler Higbee — who has produced two consecutive career-best performances — and incorporated tight end Johnny Mundt into the scheme.
Higbee and Mundt started against the Seahawks.
Those moves and personnel packages designed to exploit each opponent’s perceived weaknesses have impacted a receiving corps that was regarded as one of the NFL’s best the last two seasons.
Against the Cardinals, for example, Robert Woods played 67 snaps, Brandin Cooks 61, Kupp 57 and Josh Reynolds 29.
Against the Seahawks, the Rams looked like the team Sean McVay coached last year. But they still might need some help from the Chargers to make the playoffs.
Against the Seahawks, Woods played 69 snaps, Reynolds 46, Cooks 27 and Kupp 20.
“I think a lot of it is, ‘What do we think is the best way to have a little bit of a balance on some of the early downs? What do we think is the best way in some instances to run the football?’ ” McVay said Monday. “It is also predicated on, ‘All right, what does this defense do and what does that mean in terms of some of the matchups that you want to create?’ ”
Higbee has been the most obvious beneficiary.
The fourth-year pro played 72 snaps against the Cardinals and caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He caught seven passes for 116 yards while playing 68 snaps against the Seahawks.
Reynolds also benefited from the shuffle against Seattle. He did not catch a pass but rushed three times for 29 yards.
Woods repeated as the top receiver target, as he followed his 13-catch, 172-yard performance against the Cardinals with seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks.
Thomas Davis served as the Chargers’ unofficial offensive coordinator — at least for one play — during the team’s blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kupp was targeted 10 times in the last two games, Cooks only four times.
Kupp said Monday that he was fine with however many snaps he plays.
“You go into a the week with a game plan, and the game plan needs to be whatever it takes to win the game,” he said. “Whatever it takes is what it needs to be.
“And everyone in this locker room is going to embrace that your role changes week to week — but your job doesn’t.”
McVay said Woods, Kupp and Reynolds are “basically like fullbacks” in the rushing attack, so he is mindful of the physical toll they are absorbing. Limiting their snaps can keep them fresh for “known passing situations,” he said.
McVay gave no indication whether he will stick with the recent tight end-heavy approach against the Cowboys.
“It’s like anything else: You’re kind of trying to adapt and evolve and figure it out the best way that we can,” McVay said. “It’s a week-to-week thing.”
Nsimba Webster “got his hip banged up a little bit” during a kickoff return by Darrell Henderson, McVay said. Offensive lineman Rob Havenstein, who has been sidelined for three games because of a knee injury, is progressing, McVay said. “We’ll see what that means in terms of his status, what does that mean for the line up front, all those things as the week progresses,” he said. Rookie Bobby Evans has started in place of Havenstein at right tackle. Everett will probably sit out practice early in the week, McVay said. ... The Rams are off Tuesday. They resume practice Wednesday.
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